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Sparks of climate leadership ignite at UNGA – for and from Least Developed Countries 

Date: 01 October 2020

Thimphu, Bhutan – “Surprising announcements from some, with steadfast ambitions from others, is reinvigorating the climate scene.” As the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 75) draws to a close, the Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group in the UN climate negotiations, Sonam P Wangdi, from the Kingdom of Bhutan, commented on the signals seen from countries that climate remains a core political priority, but also the need to keep up momentum as we face interrelated crises.

The LDC Group had hoped that UNGA 75 would provide assurance from world leaders that recovery responses to COVID-19 will be compatible with efforts needed to combat climate change. “This is a critical juncture,” said Mr Wangid, “COVID-19 put a pause on so much this year. As we press play, we need to be very deliberate in how and what we are moving forward. The path we were on was too destructive. This is an opportunity to realign ourselves, our systems and our economies to ensure a better future.” 

China announced it would be carbon-neutral before 2060 and the EU proposed a sharply tightened target for slashing emissions by 2030. “Commitments to achieve carbon neutrality are very welcome, but the hard work remains. For both the EU and China, climate pledges remain to be written into law and made real with policy – we are watching closely for this to materialise. Emissions reductions can’t be left to last minute efforts; the trajectory of getting there is also critical. We must see a sharp decrease to global emissions urgently, and it must be sustained.”

On the announcement from the UK and UN to co-host a climate summit to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement, Mr Wangdi welcomed the plan, saying “This offers a prime opportunity for world leaders to demonstrate their continued commitment to combating the climate crisis and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The LDC Group has expectations that leaders and governments will bring to the table updated national climate plans for steep emissions reductions and commitments of additional climate finance to support vulnerable countries address climate change.” 

To propel action, the LDC Group held two virtual events, bringing together representatives from the countries most at risk from climate change to discuss opportunities for bold, green recovery and their initiatives for low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable development. Mr Wangdi said, “Amongst the most vulnerable to climate change, the Least Developed Countries fully understand the urgency with which the crisis must be tackled. We know there is no time to waste. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to continue working together on solutions, from afar.” 

The second event was hosted jointly with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). As the most at risk to the adverse effects of climate change, the Groups issued a joint statement calling for the highest political engagement in the run up to and at COP 26 and an ambitious global response to the climate crisis. 

“The continued ambition shown from our two groups, combined with the new announcements from major emitters, clearly show a reinvigorated set of countries coming forward for climate action – it sends a strong signal to other countries that they too must do the same before the end of 2020.”

On the UN Biodiversity Summit, Mr Wangdi said, “The COVID-19, climate and ecological crises are interrelated, each a threat multiplier to the other, and are testimony of the broader crisis of planetary health we are facing. Coordinated policy responses are needed to address global challenges as a whole. Urgent action on biodiversity is critical for people and for nature.”

And while world leaders met virtually, thousands of youth climate strikes took place across the globe to demand urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. Mr Wangdi said, “We stand with the youth striking for their future. There are millions demanding urgent climate action, we have all heard the call to action. It’s now time for the world to respond.” 

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